6.11 Jonah -- Jonah's Second Revolt
What gives the book of Jonah its "jolt," its compelling mark of human realism, is the response of Jonah to the mercy of God for Nineveh: he was angry!
"O Lord, is this not what I said when I was still at home?" (Jon 4:2)
This is extremely revealing: Jonah was saying that when God's word came to him the first time to go to Nineveh, he thought to himself -- "this is a warning from God. He never warned the Sodomites or Canaanites of judgment, He just destroyed them. But since He is sending a word to the Assyrians, He is giving them an opportunity to repent. And if they do so, if they believe the word I speak to them, He may just change His mind and not wipe them out! This is terrible, they must be destroyed, I must prevent them from hearing God's voice!"
And this was the basis for his running away from God to Tarshish.
When the Ninevites repented, Jonah gave up: he had fulfilled his task, the worst possible outcome had happened -- God had revoked the sentence of destruction -- and, in the bitterness of his spirit, he told God he was ready to die. But God asked him if he had any right to be angry.
Jonah sat outside the city and waited. The Lord caused a vine to grow and give him shade from the sun. But then the Lord sent a worm to eat the vine, and a scorching wind, and Jonah grew faint in the sun. He complained again,
"It would be better for me to die than to live" (Jon 4:8).
The book ends with God contrasting Jonah's concern for the vine with his lack of compassion for the 120,000 inhabitants of the city (Jon 4:11). Yet there is also this slam against the Ninevites who, God says:
"cannot tell their right hand from their left."
These are the people who, according to another prophet, "sit in darkness" (Isa 42:7). God takes the initiative to reach out to them, extending either judgment or mercy.